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Volume 26 No. 5
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Judge Could Compel Ion Tiriac To Stay Lawsuits Against WTA

A U.S. District judge in N.Y. yesterday said he would decide by Oct. 1 whether to compel tennis tournament owner Ion Tiriac to stay or terminate his three international lawsuits against the WTA and its CEO Steve Simon. Tiriac is suing the WTA in Spain, Cyprus and Romania for allegedly defaming him following an incident at his '17 Madrid Open. The WTA had banned Tiriac’s friend Ilie Nastase from credentialed areas, but Tiriac ignored the prohibition. Nastase had made what were deemed sexist and racist comments weeks earlier at a Fed Cup match, and the WTA issued a statement after Nastase took part in the trophy presentation saying he had cast a shadow. The women's tour is now seeking to have the lawsuits dismissed and the disputes subject to arbitration.

Judge Jed Rakoff during a 100-minute hearing asked about the WTA's statement, "What about it is defamatory?" Tiriac’s lawyer, Tara Lee of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, replied it had to do with the "gratuitous adjectives" used. The WTA’s lawyer, Brad Ruskin of Proskauer Rose, said if the lawsuits are not dismissed, the WTA could find itself facing lawsuits across the globe any time one of its members has a dispute, eviscerating the arbitration provision of the membership agreement.